Holocaust Memorial Day service & The Duchess’s Survivor Portraits

This afternoon the Duke and Duchess attended the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony. 

The Mirror’s Russell Myers posted a video of the couple arriving at Westminster’s central Hall.  

  If wondering why this date is chosen for the commemoration, January 27 is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. It was an massive complex, the largest of the Nazi camps; a lot more than 1.1 million people were murdered at the location. From The Mirror’s coverage: 

The Auschwitz camp in Poland was liberated by the Soviet army on January 27, 1945 – three quarters of a century ago today – and laid bare to the world the full horror of Nazi atrocities against the Jews of Europe and other minority groups.

The 75th anniversary was marked by ceremonies at the camp today. 

200 survivors were at the ceremony in Poland. Below, some of those survivors accompanied by family members.  

The Duchess of Cornwall attended this service. You can see her in the image below, as well as King Willem of the Netherlands (far left); Polish first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda (2nd from right); Belgium’s King Philippe.   

Today’s memorial in London was put on by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. 

Prince Charles is the organization’s Royal Patron and there are now nearly 10,000 events throughout the UK marking the day. In addition to the victims and survivors of Nazi persecution, the commemoration also honors those impacted by subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. Emily Nash of Hello! tweeted a video of Kate meeting the Trust’s chief executive, Olivia Marks-Woldman, and Sir Ben Helfgott, a Holocaust survivor and honorary president of the Trust. 

 The Telegraph reports that ahead of today’s service Ms. Marks-Woldman said, “she was pleased the royal couple had been able to attend the ceremony alongside members of the UK’s political, civic and faith leadership.”

Representatives of lots of different faiths took part in today’s commemoration. below you see some of those in attendance, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (far right), and chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis (center).

Actor Martin Shaw read the account of a Holocaust survivor. 

The service included musical performances. here you see celebrated cellist Sheku Kannah-Mason MBE and his brother Braimah Kanneh-Mason on the violin. lots of will remember Sheku Kannah-Mason’s performance at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding. 

The couple watching the service. 

Prince William spoke at the service, reading part of a letter written by a pal of his great-grandmother, Princess Alice. The Princess saved a Jewish family during the war, hiding them in her Athens home after the Nazis invaded Greece.

More from The Telegraph’s story: 

The Duchess appeared emotional as her spouse read the extract from a letter about Princess Alice’s bravery.

It said: “It was thanks to the courageous rescue of Princess Alice that the members of the Cohen family were saved.

“The members of the Cohen family left the residence three weeks after liberation, aware that by virtue of the Princess’s generosity and bravery had spared them from the Nazis.”

Welsh journalist and news presenter Huw Edwards spoke at the service.

Attendees also heard from Mala Tribich, MBE, a survivor of both Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen. On the right, Ian Forsyth, MBE.  In 1945 Mr. Forsyth was one of the first troops to liberate Bergen-Belsen. 

Mr. Forsyth spoke to Legion Scotland about his experience, saying it was a “huge shock”: 

“This was not only a shock to the system, but a nightmare.  It was absolutely unexpected, for we had not been informed as to the location of the camp or what to expect.   until that moment we had been battling to survive, now for the first time we understood just why we were there at all. I cannot fully describe it, but it completely changed my outlook on life – Man’s inhumanity to man.”

I was shot and injured. I said to myself, if I survive I am going to spend the rest of my life helping others. Seeing the concentration camp really changed my life.”

Ian Forsyth was 21-years-old when he saw Bergen-Belsen. We return to The Telegraph’s coverage, reporting that he wept “as he recalled one 11-year-old kid he had tried to look after and who had died at the camp.” 

“There were bodies lying everywhere. When you see people, they looked like skeletons with skin on them. What do you do? I don’t think any individual that didn’t see this would understand what it was like.”

“I hope people can realise how far mankind can sink if they are not careful,” he said. “We need to learn that freedom is for everyone. We’re not all the same but that must be celebrated. We need to stand together against oppression This is the most crucial lesson I can give everybody.”

Candles were lit during the commemorative event. 

There were six candles, each representing one million of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. 

The Royal family Twitter account shared a video of the candle lighting. 

 The candles lit on stage were then used to light more, until there was a total of 75 flickering in the hall. 

After the service, the couple met with Holocaust survivors. Below, the Duke and Manfred Goldberg. 

If I’m not mistaken, this is the same Manfred Goldberg Kate and William first met in July 2017 when they visited Stutthof concentration Camp in northern Poland. They also met Zigi Shipper who is seen in this picture.

Zigi Shipper and Manfred Goldberg became close friends while in the camp. The two were reunited at the Stutthof camp the day the royals visited. (Our original post on that extraordinary reunion is here.) 

Here you see the Duchess speaking with survivor Mala Tribich. 

More about Kate’s conversation with Ms. Tribich from Emily Nash’s Hello! story.  

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have told their children about the Holocaust, they told survivors at a national ceremony to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz. “We were talking to the children about it earlier today,” Kate told Mala Tribich, who had asked about her family. “But we have to be, you know, for a six year old… the interpretation,” she added, suggesting that she had explained the genocide in an proper way for a child of Prince George’s age.

“You were fantastic,” she added, putting a hand on Mala’s arm, before asking about how she tells her story to schoolchildren. “Do your experiences resonate with them?” she asked. “Do they feel they can do something for their generation?” 

The Duke and Duchess also spent time with those impacted by genocide in several countries. From The Guardian’s story: 

The event also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, where about 8,000 Muslim men and boys over the age of 12 were murdered. Survivors of genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur were present.

I don’t know which countries these people are from, but several are identified as genocide survivors. 

Below, one a lot more photo from the 75th anniversary events in Poland. A survivor arriving wearing a scarf with his prisoner number on it. 

And one a lot more image from today’s London commemoration before we turn to the second part of the post. 

The other part of today’s post is Holocaust-related: it covers photographs shot by the Duchess of two Holocaust survivors. In development of today’s service, Kensington Palace released two photo portraits taken by the Duchess. Below, Steven Frank, now 84-years-old, and his granddaughters, Maggie and Trixie (ages 15 and 13). 

Kate asked the survivors to hold something personal in the photos, an item of personal relevance to the families. In the photo above Mr. Frank holds a pan that his mother kept with them throughout their time in the camps and his granddaughter holds a teddy bear. Here you see Steven and his brothers; Steven is in the center. They were sent to Westerbork transit camp and then on to Theresienstadt with their mother. Their daddy was gassed for speaking out against the Nazi regime. 


More than 15,000 children were sent to Theresienstadt. Steven and his brothers were 3 of only 93 children who survived. here is a video of Mr. Frank speaking about the photo Kate took.

The photos were taken at Kensington Palace and today behind the scenes images from the photoshoot were released. here you see the Duchess with the Franks. 


More from the Royal Photographic Society: 

His granddaughter Trixie said: ‘It was amazing, The Duchess of Cambridge was really interested in our family and in Opa’s story, and the items we brought with us.’ Her sister Maggie said ‘I think it helped put into perspective that he’s just our Opa – he’s our grandpa as well as a Holocaust survivor. It’s crucial to tell the story so it doesn’t happen again.’

The Duchess also photographed Yvonne Bernstein and her granddaughter Chloe Wright, age 11. In this image, Ms. Bernstein holds her ID card from Germany, dated 3 March 1939 and marked with a “J” for “Jude,” or Jewish. 


Kate’s thoughts about the survivors were shared in an Instagram post. 

Despite unbelievable trauma at the start of their lives, Yvonne Bernstein and Steven Frank are two of the most life-affirming people that I have had the privilege to meet. They look back on their experiences with sadness but also with gratitude that they were some of the lucky few to make it through.  Their stories will stay with me forever.

This daily Mail story reports the photographic style was influenced by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, in part because of ties to the Netherlands both Ms. Berstein and Mr. Frank had.  Below, the Duchess and Ms. Bernstein. 


Despite the solemnity of the day’s goal, the pair looked like they very much enjoyed each other’s company.  Ms. Bernstein was at today’s service in Westminster and reconnected with the Duchess after the service. 


More from Emily Nash’s story in Hello!: 

The two women embraced and seemed delighted to see each other again, with the Duchess telling Yvonne, 82, “You were brilliant, you were very patient.” “I came out pretty well!” laughed Yvonne. She said afterwards: “I got a kiss on both cheeks from the Duchess. She and all her staff were so kind to us. We were made to feel very comfortable. She really did take it all [her story] on board.” 

The pictures are part of an exhibition that will showcase 75 survivors and their family members. It is a collaborative effort of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust along with The Jewish News and the Royal Photographic Society (Kate is Royal Patron of the RPS). The endeavor is designed to honor Holocaust victims and celebrate the full lives that survivors have built in the UK. 


More about Kate’s involvement in the project comes by means of a blog post in The Jewish news written by Justin Cohen, the paper’s editor. It was Mr. Cohen who came up with the idea and initially approached the Palace about doing some sort of 75th anniversary project involving Kate. 

I didn’t dare believe this project would happen until I learnt how much time and thought the Duchess was personally putting into it. The fine art graduate spent several days researching what she could bring to the table in order to best capture these individuals for the future. She was at pains to make sure the survivors were comfortable with the vision and that the spotlight was on the heroes to be pictured and not the Duchess herself. The idea of an exhibition bringing together all 75 images – most of which will be taken over the coming months by fellows of the RPS – followed.

Another view of the Duchess and Yvonne Bernstein today. 

We return to the blog post. 

Before meeting Steven Frank and Yvonne Bernstein, The Duchess spent significant time preparing for the photography session, and once they had arrived she spent nearly two and a half hours with them, getting to know them and their stories, and taking their photographs. Why give you all this background? It’s important because it shows that our Royal family are determined to follow up oft-repeated words of remembrance with functional steps as, day by day, we bid farewell to a lot more survivors. It shows they are personally ready to take on the message of the survivor generation to challenge all forms of hatred wherever it rears its awful head.

Here are two other images that are part of the project. On the left, John Hajdu MBE (82), who survived the Budapest Ghetto, with his 4-year-old grandson Zac. On the right, Joan Salter MBE (79), who fled the Nazis as a young child. She is seen with her spouse Martin and her daughter Shelley. 


Kate’s photo of Mr. Frank and his granddaughters was used on the cover of a special edition of The Jewish News. 

The Jewish news (click photo to check out site)

Prince Charles wrote the Foreword for the program at today’s service in Westminster.

This seventy-fifth anniversary is as a result a time for us all to resolve to act with greater compassion, greater humanity and greater courage, so that, guided by lessons from this darkest time in our shared history, we can create a shared future where no such shadows can fall.

Now for the very diffi

Leave a Reply